Paper Mache Recipe – Leah Nikolaou

Paper Mache Recipe

Learning Paper Mache   

Updated 31st October 2022

I’d been wanting to give paper mache a go for ages after been inspired by some gorgeous little pots that I discovered were made from paper.  I’d never really considered paper as a material that could be water tight or strong enough to be made into large objects, which is silly really because if we look back into history, paper mache has a rich history.

Papier mache pots

What is paper mache?

Wikipedia describes Papier-mâché as, ‘a composite material consisting of paper pieces or pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive, such as glue, starch, or wallpaper paste.' 

Ariel view of papier mache pots

The History Of Paper Mache

My initial preconception was that it’s a craft form that originates from France.  Well from the term papier mache, it’s the obvious guess right?!  Correct, ‘papier mache’ is the French for chewed paper but the term however is thought to have been coined in 18th century England when it was fashionable to use French  language to give contemporary names to things.  From masks and festival props to small bowls and   By the 19th Century papier mache had evolved from it’s believed origins in China and the Hans Dynasty (BC 202 - AD 220) to become a favourite material for Victorian craftsmen.  Huge numbers of factories were recorded as making not only typical objects in papier mache but larger pieces of furniture like fire screens, chairs, beds and even wardrobes.  They layered the papier mache with lacquers to strengthen layers.

Strips of embroidered paper for papier mache

How to make paper mache paste:

There are two principle ways of making paper mache.  The first is by tearing strips and layering them together with a glue.  The second is by boiling paper to a pulp and adding a glue to bind it together.

I experimented with brown kraft paper, newspaper and wallpaper offcuts. Opting for the strip method I’ve been simply cutting them into strips and soaking them in my mixture for a few minutes before layering.

Paper mache recipes:

Paper mache jug which has a knitted handle

Flour & Water Recipe

One part flour to one part water.  Some people add salt to prevent moulding although moulding will still happen if then paper isn’t dried properly.

 Wallpaper Paste Recipe

2 parts wallpaper paste to one part water

 Glue/ PVA Recipe

2 parts glue for one part water.

All materials differ so the above is just a rough guide which it is well worth tweaking.

Paper Mache Pots

I decided to to have a go at making some pots which I did by layering my paper around shapes of a salt shaker and a jug that I had.  Layering was easy but I hadn't factored retrieving my object from the middle, which did make my vessels break a bit loose whilst I got them out.  However once out, my basic forms were still there and with a bit of shaping it was pretty easy to mold them back into the shapes I was aiming for.  Below are my results:

Experiment 1:

Using the glue/PVA paper mache recipe & the method of layering torn pieces of paper.

Hand embroidered papier mache

Never keeping things simple I experimented with mixing hand embroidery and knitting with my papier mache.   I knitted  handles for my vessels using kid silk mohair adding another homespun dimention which gave them a really cosy feel.  I embroidered the pot once I'd finished constructing the papier mache shape which was a mistake.  Trying to get the needle through layers of paper stuck together with glue was tough and probably not the best idea. 

Experiment 2:

Using the glue/PVA paper mache recipe again & the method of layering torn pieces of paper.

How many layers of papier mache

This time instead of embroidering the pots at the end I decided to embroider strips of embroidery and layer the embroidered sections into the papier mache.  This worked much better and I love the effect it created!

If you love exploring new paper crafts why not check out paper embroidery!

Illustration of papier mache guide end page





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